21st Century Vinyl

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I’m an iPod boom box guy, so I haven’t owned a proper stereo in six years. Just don’t tell that to the boxes of LPs and 7 inches stashed in my closet. I’ve always intended on revisiting my lonely analog collection, but what little I knew about properly using and maintaining a turntable has kept me at bay. Changing a cartridge? Setting horizontal geometry? Overhang? Zenith geometry? This DVD confirms how intricate it can get, but proves that a little bit of knowledge, practice and zen-like patience goes a long way. Michael Fremer, a writer for Stereophile magazine (and a former comedian), does everything step by step in real time without skipping the minute details or sugarcoating: “When they show this in the book, it takes up one paragraph. When you do it in real life, it takes a little more time…” Among the thorough, user-friendly segments are how to change a cartridge (tip #1: be in a good mood; tip #2: beginners should use an inexpensive cartridge just in case anything goes awry). There’s also a solid rundown of which tools you need and why (tip: go for hex screwdrivers rather than keys because they’re longer and easier to maneuver), and why or why not to opt for that top of the line pressure gauge. Fremer keeps things pretty lively, too, with the occasional Julia Child impersonation or self-deprecating, light-hearted quip: “It’s more fun watching paint chip isn’t it?” or “It’s not like watching Terminator 2.” I’m still shopping around for my new table, but as soon as I get it, I’ll be re-watching and copying his every move.

– Steven Leckart

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21st Century Vinyl: Michael Fremer’s Practical Guide to Turntable Set-Up
2006,
$23
Available from Insound

Or $27 from Amazon

Related items previously reviewed in Cool Tools:

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Scratch

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The Alan Lomax Collection Sampler

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The Buddha Machine